By Crystal Burns
Rutherford Mayor Sandy Simpson used time during her monthly report at the town’s Oct. 19 meeting to set the record straight on rumors she’s been hearing recently.
“During this election time, things tend to get a little ugly,” she said. “I’m not going to be one of those people, but I do want to set some rumors straight about this administration that have been told to me and others on this board.”
Simpson is seeking re-election to the mayor’s seat in the current election. She started with concerns about the water department.
“Our water department has never been in the red, is not in the red,” she said. “We had to raise water rates because that had not been done in so long to get the water rates where they need to be to sustain the water plant. State regulates a lot of things that people think we regulate that we do not. We would love to be able to give everybody $25-a-month water bill, give it to you free, but that’s not reality. The city cannot donate, partake in any fundraisers whatsoever for the water department. It has to be self-sufficient. It’s a separate entity from the general fund in the city budget. It has to stand alone.”
She complimented Supervisor Eddie Watkins and addressed his salary.
“Eddie does a good job of keeping our water where it’s supposed to be,” Simpson said. “It’s been better than it’s been in a long time here. Our numbers are really good.
“I was told by some citizens that they were told that Eddie was getting overtime, and why was he getting overtime because he’s salaried. Eddie does not draw overtime. That’s not true either.
“Eddie does not draw any compensation for weekends that he works, and he works most of them because he’s salaried. So, if you’ve been told that he is getting overtime because they’ve looked at some paperwork they didn’t understand, that’s a lie.”
Simpson said she has heard complaints about the new sedimentation basin and rumors that bird droppings are getting into city water through the open basin. She called that a “bold-faced lie.”
“That sedimentation basin is not designed to have a lid on it,” she said. “You’d have to have a crane to lift a lid on such a contraption.”
Watkins jumped in to explain that the sedimentation basin is pre-filtered. When water leaves the basin, it’s filtered before it goes to the water tanks, which supply water to residents.
Watkins and Dana Deem of the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) also helped explain water rates. Deem said a municipal water department can lose money for two years. Then, leaders are called before the state water/wastewater board to provide a plan for getting back on track. If state board members don’t believe the plan is sufficient, they will set water rates for the town.
Watkins said when Rutherford aldermen set the current schedule for water rates, the state showed that the department’s net position had dropped for the past five years.
“If we had waited until we went in the red and they mandated a rate increase, I promise you wouldn’t have been happy,” Watkins said. He noted that some towns have seen the state mandate water rate increases of 120%.
Police – Simpson continued her fact checking with Police Chief Adam Branch and Assistant Chief Tim McGarrity.
“There’s been talk that Adam has been taking his car to Kenton to his girlfriend’s, and there’s a problem with that with mileage and gas on the vehicle, all the same stuff we always hear,” she said. “Adam has permission to go to his girlfriend’s and eat on duty. It is no different than them allowing [city employees] to go to Dyer to pick up something to eat or to go to the convenience store in Kenton to pick up something to eat if that’s what they want to do. The city doesn’t pay Adam’s gas to go there. He has $10 a week taken out of his personal check and paid to the city for his gas to go eat. So, let’s clear that lie up real quick.”
Branch said it was his idea to take $10 a week out of his check.
“Nobody’s asked me to do that,” he said.
Simpson also addressed rumors about Branch being seen in other towns during his work hours. She explained that as the department’s lone investigator, cases often take him into other jurisdictions.
Of McGarrity, Simpson said that residents who see McGarrity’s patrol vehicle parked at his house shouldn’t assume that he’s on duty and running radar from his driveway. He parks his vehicle there when he’s off duty to slow down traffic.
“Why these petty things are coming up, I’m not sure, but the public has the right to know they’re not true,” Simpson said.
Street department – Finally, Simpson addressed a rumor that a street department employee had heard – that all of the department employees would be fired after the Nov. 3 election if Simpson is not re-elected. She asked the board to tell employees that they are not in jeopardy of losing their jobs. The board agreed the election would not affect employees’ jobs.
Simpson wrapped up her comments by telling residents that instead of listening to gossip, they should come to board meetings or contact their aldermen with any questions.
“My suggestion would be if you really want to know what’s going on in this town, come to a board meeting or call one of these people on this board, not your neighbor,” Simpson said.
Industrial board – During the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting, William Clanton asked the board if the town would be willing to look at offering tax breaks for incoming businesses and industries. Deem briefly explained the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) program that some cities and counties work together to offer. He said the program is typically negotiated with an industrial board.
Clanton, who previously served as chairman of the Rutherford Industrial Board, said it had been dissolved, but he thinks there is a greater need for it now. He agreed to head up a revamped industrial board.
Money – Bob White said the committee responsible for fund raising for cheer baskets and food boxes that are distributed to Rutherford and area residents in December will need help from the town this year. He said there is about $2,000 in the account. Alderman Broeck Horner said the town donated $200 last year, but the board would be willing to consider increasing that if necessary.
Simpson said the board could expect costs for the town’s recent paving project to increase $4,400 because three water leaks required city employees to cut into the paving to fix the leaks, all which happened after the board received the initial paving bid.
Simpson also said the town’s water project came in under budget, leaving Rutherford with about $80,000. The department chose to use the excess funds to purchase a Kubota mini excavator, which includes a trailer, two buckets, and an extended warranty for $74,350. Rural Development asked the town to get three bids and chose Kubota from the list.
The Rutherford board meets the third Monday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. Meetings are open to the public.